25 June 2015

Law in Plain English: Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogTexas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project, Inc.

Argument: Jan 21 2015 (Aud.)

Background: The Inclusive Communities Project (ICP) is a non-profit organization that assists low-income, predominately African-American families who are eligible for the Dallas Housing Authority’s Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program in finding affordable housing in predominately Caucasian, suburban neighborhoods. ICP filed suit action against the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA) alleging that TDHCA's allocation of Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) in Dallas resulted in a disparate impact on African-American residents under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). The district court held that ICP had proven that the allocation of tax credits resulted in a disparate impact on African-American residents. The Fifth Circuit remanded the case to the district court to apply the burden-shifting approach found in HUD regulation 24 C.F.R. § 100.500 for claims of disparate impact under the FHA. First, a plaintiff must prove a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that a challenged practice causes a discriminatory effect. If the plaintiff makes a prima facie case, the defendant must then prove “that the challenged practice is necessary to achieve one or more substantial, legitimate, nondiscriminatory interests....” If the defendant meets its burden, the plaintiff must then show that the defendant’s interests “could be served by another practice that has a less discriminatory effect.”

Issue: The question before the Court is whether disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.

Holding: In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that disparate-impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act.
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